BERKELEY -- The city has declared a homeless camp under Interstate 80 on Gilman Street a public nuisance and has given residents until Tuesday to clean up the growing mounds of trash or crews will remove all the property there.
The homeless camp under the freeway sprung up in May after neighboring Albany pushed out a long-standing group of campers who had been on bay front land near Golden Gate Fields for years.
The area on either side of Gilman Street under the freeway overpass is piled with food waste, old bikes, shopping carts, tents, tarps, mattresses and sleeping bags. The population of the camp varies by day as people come and go. The California Highway Patrol also has posted a notice at the camp telling people they need to go or face "citation or arrest."
A letter from Berkeley's Environmental Health Division posted on cement pillars of the overpass said: "The accumulation of food waste, trash, debris, personal belongings and animal waste must be removed completely and disposed of properly."
It also cited a growing rat problem in the camp.
The July 2 notice came after a June 20 hearing in which homeless advocates argued that the camp had been cleaned up and that the city should help by bringing in garbage cans for the campers, attorney Osha Neumann said.
"The city has refused to put in trash cans and do any trash pickup," Neumann said. "They overruled our objections. They want people to get out of there, including the tents and tarps."
Neumann said he filed an appeal with the City Council, but the council does not meet again until September.
"We think the whole city process should be stopped until September, and, meanwhile, if the city is serious, they should do some trash pickup," Neumann said.
Berkeley police were on the scene Wednesday, as they have been nearly every day since May, offering to link the campers with city services in the hopes they will accept them, move out and eventually obtain housing. Police also on Wednesday were getting ready to deploy a mobile digital sign warning motorists not to stop under the overpass. Police said people are dropping off food and water to the campers and causing traffic problems in the already busy area.
"I can see making us clean this up," said camper Bill Sermon. "But we've killed the rats. We've got a rat count over here. We've killed hundreds of rats. We recycle stuff that otherwise would go to the dump."
A city of Berkeley spokesman declined to comment on the camp or how the city plans to enforce the nuisance declaration.
Correspondent Damin Esper contributed to this report. Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.